Evictions, Utility Cut-Offs Resume Even As COVID-19 Infections Spike

Nov. 17 incidence map, Kentucky Department of Public Health

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

[email protected]

Even with the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in favor of Gov. Andy Beshear’s   executive orders, many people here in Mercer County and across the commonwealth find themselves facing eviction and possibly losing their utilities due to unpaid bills.

A statewide moratorium on utility cut-offs ended last week. Burgin Mayor Jim Caldwell announced the city will begin cut-offs  next month. At the most recent city council meeting, Caldwell said the city plans to notify customers this month.

Mike D. Sanford, executive director of the Lake Village Water Association said they are still trying to work with customers on getting bills paid.

“Technically we can disconnect, but we currently have all of our accounts that fell behind due to the executive orders issued by the state on payment plans,” Sanford said. He said Lake Village  will continue to make every effort to keep the water service on for customers.

Tammy Holliday of the North Mercer Water District said cut-offs will begin on Dec. 1. Holliday said they have already contacted customers via mail.

“They can contact the office to set up a payment plan,” Holliday said. She said customers who are behind have up to nine months in order to get caught up.

The City of Harrodsburg will not begin cut-offs until the beginning of next year. According to Amy Kays-Huffman, disconnects will resume on Jan. 20, 2021. Customers with past due balances of up to $300 can make a three month pay plan while those past due balances of more than $300 can make six month payment plans.

Kays-Huffman said After suspending disconnects and late fees, the water department  has accumulated more than $125,008.00 in past due balances and waived more than $102,286.62 in late fees.  Late fees will be reinstated on residential and commercial accounts on Jan. 11, 2021, she said.

Kentucky Utilities has also begun making payment arrangements available to customers to avoid disconnection.  According to the KU website, customers can sign up for a payment arrangement. For those who don’t  select a payment arrangement, their past-due balance will be automatically rolled into a 12-month payment plan.

While on a payment plan, customers must pay the current balance and the payment arrangement monthly installment amount by the due date to avoid disconnection.

Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold Gov. Andy Beshears’ authority to issue restrictions on businesses and individuals to contain the spread of COVID-19. The ruling kept in place restrictions on the number of children in day cares, crowd sizes at public events as well as the mask mandate. The Supreme Court said the governor has authority to “act without deference to any determination” by local authorities or emergency management agencies.”

However, evictions resumed in Mercer County and across Kentucky in August. According to the Mercer County Circuit Clerk’s Office, landlords must fill out an affidavit showing the tenant does not qualify for an exemption under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act was passed with bipartisan approval in Congress in March. The bill provided single adults with a $1,200 payment and set aside money for increased unemployment benefits, forgivable loans to small businesses and aid for large corporations and state and local governments.

However, the two houses of congress have been unable to agree on a second round of stimulus spending. An article by WDRB estimates that 221,000 households in Kentucky are unable to pay rent and are at risk of being evicted.

Kentucky’s Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund is no longer accepting applications. According to the state website, the $15 million designated to help tenants and landlords pay past due and future rent has been exhausted.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said the state will no longer take applications for the Team Kentucky Fund, which raised more than $3.7 million to help Kentucky families who have been economically hurt by the pandemic. Coleman said the fund has assisted 2,500 families and all funds will likely be exhausted once current applications are processed. Anyone who still needs assistance should contact Community Action Network, which has partnered with the state to distribute the funds. Additional resources can also be found at kycovid.ky.gov, she said.

Contact Information

• City Of Burgin, 859-605-9652 or cityofburgin.com.

• City of Harrodsburg, 734-4971 or harrodsburgcity.org.

• Eviction Relief, www.kyhousing.org.

• Kentucky Utilities. 1 (800) 981-0600 or lge-ku.com.

• Lake Village Water Association. 859.748.5642 or lakevillagewater.com.

• North Mercer Water District. (859) 865-2292 or northmercerwater.org.

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